Asia's Best Wines
Wineries are constantly experimenting with new winemaking methods, changing consultants, and thinking and rethinking what varietals (and which of their clones) best suit their climate, soil and weather... Our guide to the very best vinos. By Ch’ng Poh Tiong.
Published on Apr 1, 2010
That said, there are some decent—even good—wines grown in Asia, though nothing great yet. Here are some standouts:
SULA OF INDIA Situated in Nashik region in Maharashtra state, Sula Vineyards is proudly Indian—from the name of the winery to the label of a mustachioed beaming sun with deep, dark eyes. Sula Chenin Blanc 2007 is true to its back label tasting notes, “perfect for a summer evening … light, fresh, fruity character finished in a semidry style.” One of the most ambitious Asian red wines I’ve tasted in the past few years was the Sula Dindori Reserve Shiraz 2007. Solid brick in color, the peppery-berry fruit is delivered by rich skin and oak tannins. Cultivated on the red hills of Sula Vineyard’s Dindori Estate, this bold wine was aged for a year in new oak. If the oak is toned down a bit, the wine’s balance would be even more striking.
PB VALLEY Thailand launched its first wine in 1994. From day one, the kingdom has kept faith with Chenin Blanc, the Loire Valley varietal capable of producing a dry to intensely sweet wine of great freshness because of the grape’s high acidity. Although nowhere near as popular as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc is well suited for the growing conditions in Thailand. One of Thailand’s most dynamic wineries is PB Valley, situated on the edge of the Khao Yai National Park. One of the country’s biggest vineyards at 80 hectares, the winery produces three Chenin Blancs—Sawasdee, PB Khao Yai Reserve and Pirom Khao Yai Reserve.
Sawasdee is the entry-point Chenin Blanc and has a pleasant, fresh, soft sweetness. As for the two reserve wines, they are quite different in styles. PB Khao Yai Reserve Chenin Blanc 2005 is bright straw in color. The palate is of wild honey, ripe apples, pineapples and a whiff of lavender. Medium-bodied, there is a soft sweetness in the middle palate, lifted by lemony acidity on the finish. Pirom Khao Yai Reserve Chenin Blanc 2005 is of the same bright straw color. The aroma comprises apples, pineapples and floral notes. The palate profile is much the same but with an added spiciness. The finish is, however, firmer and dryer.
GREAT WALL WINERY This vineyard was the official supplier of wine for the Beijing Olympics. Red is, of course, the favorite color of the Middle Kingdom and, in the case of wine, the same bias prevails. Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is very much what one would expect of the Bordeaux varietal. Ruby-red and medium-bodied, the palate is of capsicum, herbs and smoky fruit with fresh, crisp tannins.
GRACE VINEYARD Further away from the Great Wall in Shanxi province is Grace Vineyard, one of China’s most famous wineries. Owned by an Indonesian–Chinese family based in Hong Kong, their Tasya’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is named after the granddaughter of the founder. Medium-bodied and of a ruby–pale tawny complexion, this Chinese red has soft, round tannins and capsicum, fruity